Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

I am SO close to releasing a new beadweaving tutorial - it just needs to be proofread. That was on my list for today, but I, well ..... just didn't feel like it. It was one of those rainy, take-a-nap kind of days!

So I will get it taken care of tomorrow, and publish my first tutorial of 2016 sometime tomorrow evening. I'll post here and on Facebook to let everyone know, but here is a sneak peak of ONE of the FIVE bracelets included in the tutorial:

More details tomorrow!

Meanwhile, as I was sitting around doing not much today, reading random forum threads on Etsy, I saw some folks talking about their views from Pinterest (y'all know I have a bit of a Pinterest addiction.....), and one poster commented that she'd had only a handful of views from Pinterest for the whole year, and didn't know if Pinterest was worthwhile. I got curious, because Pinterest is always my #2 source of views, after views from Etsy itself.

Of course, I post on Pinterest because of my little addiction, far in 2015, I have had 4802 views from Pinterest! I wish I had more information ... like a way to know how many of those converted to sales, but I don't.

Anyway - have a fantastic and safe New Year's Eve, and best wishes for 2016!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Spiky Chevrons, Stripes, ZigZags, and Diamonds - a new tutorial

I've just published my latest beadweaving tutorial, "Spiky Chevrons, Stripes, ZigZags, and Diamonds." It is 25 pages of full color photos, diagrams, graphs, and step-by-step instructions for 16 bracelet variations using 6mm Czechmates™ triangles

Just a few of the bracelets included in my newest tutorial, "Spiky Chevrons, Stripes, ZigZags, and Diamonds"

I love the textural element the triangle beads give to the designs!

This versatile pattern is available in my Etsy shop!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Wire-Decorated Pumpkins for Fall

A couple of pumpkins I've decorated with craft wire for autumn:
Pumpkin decorated with spirals made from 18g copper, silver, and gold craft wire, by Sweet Freedom Designs

Small decorative pumpkin wrapped with 18g orange, chartreuse, and dark green Artistic Wire, by Sweet Freedom Designs

Before I go any further, these are NOT my ideas - I bought the book where I found these ideas at least 7 years before I discovered beading. I saw it in a bookstore, bought it, and put it on my craft bookshelf at home, and never touched it again. (Sound familiar?) Then, 2 days ago, I still was looking for book I have been trying to find for about 3 weeks, and decided I might as well look on the craft shelf, and though I didn't find what I was looking for, I did discover this black book with "Halloween" written on the spine in white in a really cool font. I pulled out the book, and the spiral-decorated pumpkin was on the cover, and I knew I wanted to make it! If you like Halloween crafts, you might want to check out halloween, 101 frightfully fun ideas. The book has a wide spectrum of Halloween crafts inside!

So, back to my wire-embellished pumpkins.
Another view of pie pumpkin covered in craft wire spirals, by Sweet Freedom Designs
This started as a pie pumpkin, about 10 inches high and 10 inches in diameter. The book recommends using silver solder to create the spirals, but that's crazy talk! I don't know where they get their silver solder, but around here, it's expensive!

I decided 18g craft wire was a better idea, and even better? I could combine gold, silver, and copper to decorate my pumpkin! Y'all know how I love to mix metals.....

I started out small, and precise, and was hammering my spirals as I created them. And then my OCD and perfectionism kicked in - I got all worried about where the different spirals would go, and fussy about what colors were next to each other (I didn't want a whole cluster of silver, or copper, etc., sitting there - I wanted the colors arranged so there was never a spot with 2 of the same color next to each other! Yeah ..... that didn't happen. LOL.) And I wanted the spirals evenly spaced, and all sorts of other pickiness kicked in. So while I should have probably completed this one in an hour or so, it took me over 8 hours. Yeah, that's right: Eight Hours.

I was going to wrap some green artistic wire around the stem, and create some wire leaves, but after the 8+ hour of creating spirals, I. Was. Done.

Time for the other pumpkin!

Small decorative pumpkin wrapped with 18g Artistic Wire, by Sweet Freedom Designs
This cute little decorative pumpkin won my heart at the grocery store: its shape is perfect, and I loved it's freckled complexion! It's about 4 inches tall (not counting the stem) and about 6 inches in diameter.

The book called for "plastic coated wire" - I didn't have any of that, but I had 18g Artistic wire in bright orange, chartreuse, and dark green. The little pumpkin had an even number of grooves going around it, so I decided to alternate the orange and chartreuse wires for the wrapping on the sides. Then I added the dark green to the other 2 for the stem, twisting all 3 colors together and coiling them around the stem, then turning the ends into coiling tendrils.

The plastic-coated wire in the book shows up a lot better (could be because it is bright pink!), but it is also much thicker than my 18 gauge wire. If I were doing this one over again, I would probably bundle 3 pieces of each color together to wrap in each groove around the sides of the pumpkin. (Full disclosure: in person, the wires on the sides of the little pumpkin show up very well; they just don't look like much in the pics!) I also want my tendrils to be longer, so I will probably go back and wrap in a few more tendrils when I get back to work next week. I may even make a few wire leaves ... who knows?!

Happy Fall, y'all!

3 views of the pie pumpkin covered with craft wire spirals, by Sweet Freedom Designs

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Pushing Yourself Creatively

I think most beadweavers start out the same way; you like jewelry, you like beads, and you see pretty woven jewelry somewhere, and you want to make some. You may go to your local bead shop and take a class, or you may tackle a pattern in a magazine or online, or you may check out YouTube videos - but most start by following patterns; some pattern, somewhere.

I find that the first step in getting creative with beadweaving is often just trying different colors from those shown in the pattern. For some folks, that's a huge step, as lots of people have trouble visualizing colors; for others, that's no big deal.

My take on "Quadrille", with lots of substituting and some pattern-tweaking

A bigger step is substituting beads. Lots of people just won't go there - the pattern calls for a certain bead? Many beaders see that as LAW, and won't deviate.

For me, substituting started out of desperation. I own a bead shop, for crying out loud, but no bead shop can have every dang bead, all the time! And I even had the correct bead, technically - I can't remember the specifics, but I think the pattern called for a 3mm Swarovski crystal, and I just did NOT have enough in a color that went with all the other beads in the materials list, so I finally decided: well, if a 3mm bicone will work, why can't a 3mm firepolish? Sure, the shape is a little different, but how bad could it screw up the pattern? The answer: not at all.

And I was off on a journey of substitution....never looking back.

At first, I stayed pretty close to the original bead: substituting 3mm firepolish with 3mm bicones, 4mm firepolish with 4mm bicones, etc. But then a pattern called for 8mm Swarovski pearls, and I didn't have any, so I went with some irregularly shaped 7 to 8mm freshwater pearls. And then I just went crazy - if the size I needed to substitute wasn't available, I supplemented by adding seed beads or other beads to either side to make up the difference, and sometimes I just went with a completely different shape: changing a round bead to a triangle, for example.

And that's when I decided to do something I NEVER thought I could do: design my own pattern. This again arose out of necessity, as I wanted to use SuperDuos to do something, but every pattern I found everywhere I looked was acting like this particular "thing" I wanted to do couldn't be done with the Duos (I am not going to go into the specifics here), but I was determined to show that it could be done.

I sat down with beads of all different shapes and sizes, and my SuperDuos, and started to play. I don't know any pattern designers personally, so I didn't have any mentors or guidance ... I just kept stitching little samplers, all day long; I kept getting closer to my goal, but kept getting thwarted. I'd set each failure aside, so I could remember not to repeat it! I wasn't taking notes ... just keeping my little samplers.

After many, many mis-stitches; and many, many hours, I hit upon the correct pattern, and my "Well-Traveled" design was born. It wasn't a tutorial yet - I taught it several times, stitched it up countless times, and finally sat down to hammer out the written instructions with diagrams. All in all, it probably took 6 months from idea to publishing of the pattern.

And it was many months before I decided to see if I had any creativity left! But I did, and I have published several tutorials since then, and am actually working on 2 simultaneously right now.

This past week, I wanted to take a mental break from working on tutorials, and just do some good old fashioned stitching, for stitching's sake. Plus, I needed a few more samples to display in the shop.

I went through old beading magazines, and found 2 that interested me (and would use lots of different bead shapes I could then hopefully sell in the shop, based on the stitched up examples I wanted to make). I let a couple of my most frequent customers decide which I would tackle first, and (much to my chagrin), they chose the one that was going to require LOTS of substitutions, which I knew was going to mean lots of extra work and brainpower on my not as much of a stitching vacation/mental break as I had hoped for! But that's OK ... beads are always fun!!

So I thought I'd walk you through the paths I took as I was making bead substitutions in this particular pattern.

The pattern they picked was from the April/May 2014 issue of BeadWork, and is called "Quadrille Bracelet" (by Sandie Bachand).

The day I received my copy of this issue, I marked this pattern to make up because it called for 2-hole lentils, and I had 2-hole lentils in the shop that I needed to sell! Making up samples always helps people visualize the project better than just seeing the pics in the magazine. You can see my little pink sticky flag at the top right of the pic. Unfortunately, the mag with its flagged patterns went on top of my To-do pile, and was soon buried by other projects ... you know how it goes .... and here it is, well over a year later, but I'm finally getting to it!

In addition to the 2-hole lentils, the pattern called for 6.5mm Rose Montees.

I do not carry Rose Montees. I do not have any Rose Montees. I do not like Rose Montees. And I had NO intention of purchasing Rose Montees for the shop just so I could make this one pattern, because I knew they would not be a popular seller. One of the 2 customers that picked this particular pattern for me to tackle first even told me she had some Rose Montees at home that she'd give me so I could make this bracelet, but ... did I mention? I don't like them! Too blingy and gimmicky (to me). Plus, if I made the bracelet with Rose Montees, my customers would then expect to be able to BUY rose montees in my shop, and, as I said....not going there! So, it's Substitution Time!

My thought was 6mm is close to 6.5mm, and the pattern shows multiple thread passes through the Montee, so I need a 6mm bead with a large enough hole for multiple thread passes, so probably not a pearl. I decided to go with a 6mm firepolish, but could just have easily chosen a 6mm gemstone, or 6mm round Swarovski, or probably even a 6mm Swarovski bicone.

My next stumbling block? The pattern called for 2mm glass pearls. I didn't have any. I had some 2mm gemstone rounds, but they didn't go with any of my 2-hole lentils, so I decided that a size 8/0 seed bead was close enough to 2mm, and I had a huge color selection in 8/0s, so yeah, I'm gonna use 8/0s.

Scanning the rest of the materials list, I had everything, so I set about to put together my colorway.

The bead on the material list that I had the fewest colors to choose from was the 2-hole lentil, so I decided to start there. This is where I start whenever I am choosing colorways, and harks back to a term from my chemistry days: Rate Limiting Step. Briefly, the rate limiting step in chemistry is the step which determines how fast a chemical reaction will occur, and is determined by the amount of reactants (or "ingredients") present in the reaction - the one you have the least of is the one that controls how fast things progress, because when you run out of that particular one, the reaction stops. Period. So my choice of 2-hole lentils would determine how many different colorways I could possibly put together.

The bead ("ingredient") I had the next fewest choices of was a 3x4mm rondelle, and when I compared my choice of lentils with my choice of rondelles, I really only had one choice to continue forward: the matte copper 2-hole lentil and a blue and copper rondelle. I chose the rest of my beads, and sat down to stitch.

And soon ran into my first substitution-induced stitching road block.

When it was time to add the rondelles, the 8/0s in the previous step had pushed the 2-hole lentils further apart than a 2mm pearl would have, and the 3x4 rondelle no longer fit well.

Solution? A 4x7 rondelle. Fortunately, I had one that went nicely with the rest of my chosen beads, or I would have had to start all over at the beginning, choosing a new colorway. Been there, done that ... but didn't have to do that this time!

And almost immediately, stitching road block number 2. I completed the first unit, and was getting ready to move onto the next one, but noticed that by using this larger rondelle, a tiny bit of thread showed on either side of each rondelle. How much is "a tiny bit"?

Well: 1) enough to drive me insane
        2) therefore, enough to need fixing
        3) enough to be covered by a 15/0.

So I took apart the unit, and restitched it with a 15/0 on either side of the rondelle. Perfect!!

Next, it was time for the step which called for the montee. As I said earlier, I had decided to use a 6mm firepolish instead, and stitched the unit exactly as called for in the pattern (except for substituting the firepolish for the montee). The pattern explained that the 15/0s on either side of the rose montee would roll to the back of the montee and not be seen, but mine stayed on either side of the firepolish, which didn't bother me at all.

Then it was time to stitch/add the second unit.

Keep in mind, by changing the rondelle from 3x4 to 4x7, I had significantly increased the length/width of each (by 3mm on each end, for a total of 6mm total increase per unit). As I looked at constructing the unit, this would really impact the number of units in the finished bracelet, so I made a creative decision to make each unit SHARE the end rondelle from the previous unit (whereas the pattern calls for each unit having 4 rondelles, and the end ones are connected to each other by other beads).

From there, I proceeded to just follow my stitching pattern from unit one, and when it was time to add my 6mm firepolish to the center of the unit, I discovered stitching road block number 3: when I added the 6mm firepolish to the center of the first unit, the pattern had only said to center the "montee" between 2 particular lentils on each side of the unit, so I did ....not thinking ahead that because the montee is round, the placement in regards to the rondelles isn't important .... round is round! But the firepolish bead has 2 obvious ends, and the way I had placed it (even though that was the placement called for in the pattern) left the 2 ends pointing diagonally across the unit (I wish I had taken a photo - but instead of my firepolish spanning the unit from side-to-side, or end-to-end [as they do in my finished bracelet], it was in between those 2 positions, so it would never line up with the one I added in each subsequent unit). My symmetrical left brainedness would NOT allow this (and probably wouldn't have been happy if the firepolish beads had lain horizontally, either), so I had to rip apart my beadwork ONE. MORE. TIME. Oh, well.

Same bracelet, slightly different lighting. Also: note how my firepolish centers line up!

 this pic shows details of the bracelet units

But from there, it was smooth sailing, and I really like the finished bracelet. Plus, the units just lent themselves to earrings, so I made a those, too.


And my point when I started this post was ... don't be afraid to push yourself creatively when beading. If you really like a pattern, but don't have/can't find all the beads the pattern calls for, make a substitution. Or ask your local bead shop to help you with substitutions - if they are like me, they LOVE doing this! And just be aware of the butterfly effect: as happened to me, in this particular pattern, one seemingly innocuous substitution led to a cascade of unintended consequences, causing me to make another substitution, and some more minor changes to the design, but I ultimately ended up with a pretty bracelet, and you can, too!!

PS: Speaking of substitutions, SpellCheck would like me to know that "bicone" is not a word, and it strongly suggests "bacon" as a substitution. Which sounds pretty right about now.....

Thursday, July 16, 2015

New Earring Designs

In between juggling other projects, I created 4 pairs of earrings over the last couple of weeks. These designs were developed to deal with an inventory problem: I had about 18 feet of gorgeous Vintaj Natural Brass chain whose links were too tiny for any matching jumprings I have or could make (without breaking down and ordering WIRE, which I didn't want to do, because then I would end up with a bunch of small gauge wire I didn't need!).

Adding fringe to the bottom of these earrings seemed like a perfect solution! And I have enough chain left over to make one more pair - just trying to decide which beads to use for the last pair!

All of these are available on Etsy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Please Pass the Peanuts!

My latest Beadweaving tutorial is called "Please Pass the Peanuts!"

Some of the bracelet variations taught in my "Please Pass the Peanuts" tutorial

This versatile pattern features either Superduos OR Czechmates 2-hole bricks, plus 15/0 seed beads, and Peanuts (of course!). There are options to add other embellishing beads (depending on whether you use Superduos or bricks) such as 3mm Swarovski bicones, 3mm Firepolish (or other 3mm beads), 1x2 crystal rondelles, 7/0 Matubos, and more. Both narrow and wide variations of both the Superduo and brick versions are shown, and there is also an option on the Superduo version to substitute 3x4mm drop beads for the peanuts.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Peaks and Valleys - a New Beadweaving Tutorial by Sweet Freedom Designs

My latest beadweaving tutorial contains step-by-step instructions for a wide bracelet, 2 skinny stacker-type bracelets (with options for several more variations), 2 very different necklaces, and 3 different earrings. Beads used include Superduos; Czechmates™ 2-hole tiles; O-beads; drop beads; and size 15/0, 8/0, and 11/0 seed beads. One of the necklaces has the option for using the new 6x5mm and 9x8mm Czech glass mushroom beads.

"Peaks and Valleys" wide bracelet:
"Peaks and Valleys" bracelet; 3 colorways shown

"Peaks and Valleys" skinny bracelets:
"Peaks and Valleys" skinny bracelets

"Peaks and Valleys" necklace #1:
 "Peaks and Valleys" Necklace #1

 "Peaks and Valleys" necklace #2:
 "Peaks and Valleys" Necklace #2

There is a lot of opportunity for varying this second necklace - by changing the number of strands across the front and/or back, and by varying the choice of "accent" beads (I used Czech glass mushroom beads for the lower 2 strands, but Swarovski crystals, firepolish beads, and drop beads could easily be substituted.)

 "Peaks and Valleys" Earrings
 "Peaks and Valleys" - 3 different earrings

This versatile tutorial is available in my Etsy shop, and I'm working on getting some kits put together in several colorways.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

New Beadweaving Tutorial - A versatile design for bracelets and earrings

Last night I published my latest beadweaving tutorial, "Stackers, Wrappers, and Double/Triple Deckers".

Stackers, Wrappers, and Double/Triple Deckers
a beadweaving tutorial by Sweet Freedom Designs

When I say this is a versatile pattern, I'm not kidding. It uses a 2-hole bead, which can be either a Superduo OR a Czechmates™ Brick OR a Czechmates™ lentil - all of which give it a different look. Plus, it calls for a 3mm bead, which can be an 8/0, an 11/0 triangle, a 3mm Swarovski crystal, etc. - really, so many different choices here.

The tutorial gives step-by-step instructions for skinny stacking bracelets, a yummy wrap bracelet (I'm wearing the one at top right, above, right now!), a "Double Decker", and a "Triple Decker" (seen at top left, above). There are also instructions for making earrings.

I will be getting some kits put together soon!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Version of "Egyptian Cuff"

I finished my version of Shelley Nybakke's "Egyptian Cuff" yesterday - the pattern is available online from Beadwork Magazine.

 Bracelet stitched by Sweet Freedom Designs (pattern by Shelley Nybakke)

The pattern calls for stitching the bracelet with 11/0 seed beads and approximately 140 3mm Swarovski bicone crystals.

While I have a huge selection of 11/0s, I have a dearth of 3mm bicones - and only 3 colors where I had at least 140 crystals to play with!

I was none too thrilled with those 3 colors, but paired them up with some 11/0s the best I could, and stitched up the first section of the bracelet, and just wasn't excited about any of the outcomes:

Left: a purple sample using 8/0 seed beads & 4mm bicones; 
Right: galvanized silver 11/0s with turquoise AB 3mm bicones, crystal AB 11/0s with amethyst AB 3mm bicones, and gold-lined opal 11/0s with Caribbean Opal bicones. 

However, I have tons of 4mm crystals, so I decided to step up to 8/0 seed beads and 4mm bicones, and see how the pattern worked, and it stitched up perfectly!

My favorite of these initial trials was the purple/purple combo on the far left - but it seems like everything I'm stitching lately is purple, and I wanted to get out of my "purple rut." It finally hit me that I could use 2 colors of bicones in the pattern, one for the RAW segments, and another for the connecting strands. Duh.

I stitched up a RAW sample with Gold-lined Opal 8/0s and Chili Pepper 4mm bicones, and loved it. I paired it with Indian Sapphire 4mm bicones, and I really liked the combo.

detail, Egyptian Cuff stitched by Sweet Freedom Designs (pattern by Shelley Nybakke)

While the pattern stitched up perfectly with my step up to 8/0s and 4mm bicones, it did cause each of the RAW sections to be almost 1.5 inches wide. I dropped down to using 11/0s for the connecting strands, in an attempt to decrease the size a bit, but it still turned out to be way too small with just 6 RAW segments, so I added a 7th RAW section, which makes the bracelet a little too large for an average wrist, even with the tube clasp I chose to use. Sizing wouldn't have been an issue at all if I had used the 11/0 seed beads and the 3mm crystals, as each of those RAW sections was only 3/4 inch wide!

The RAW technique used in this bracelet was, coincidentally, the same 3-D Right Angle Weave as that in the Amphora Beaded Bead by Marcia Decoster that I was stitching when last I blogged!